Porter County councilman casts doubt about joining ethics panel
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 4, 2014 12:04AM
Updated: June 5, 2014 5:16PM
VALPARAISO — In light of the announcement earlier this week that Indiana is forming a coalition to tackle public corruption, Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District, is questioning the recent decision by the Board of Commissioners to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
The coalition, announced by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, will focus on training and educating government officials, and drafting legislation to protect taxpayer money.
Commissioners voted in March to join the advisory group, which includes several Lake County communities as well as LaPorte County, and fosters ethical behavior among elected officials through education and training.
Biggs said if Zoeller and other state groups, including the State Board of Accounts, are putting together a program to address the issue, “it’s ridiculous that we’re paying an annual fee to the Lake (County) coalition for what we could be getting (for) free from the state of Indiana.”
Joining the advisory commission costs $2,500 for each of the fist two years and $1,500 for each year after that, said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, who suggested joining the group. Porter County has not yet paid the fee.
“I shared Mr. Biggs’ concern, so I did some research and learned the two agencies are working closely together and will complement each other rather than overlap,” Blaney said. “If we find that there is duplication of services in the future, we will definitely make changes.”
In an email to Blaney, Cal Bellamy, president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, said his group and the state’s have separate missions.
“I see no competition between us and (Zoeller) and in fact expect we will continue to be a resource to him,” Bellamy said. “The kind of training (Zoeller) is talking about would largely be based on specific laws and duties rather than a focus strictly on ethics. However, I would hope there would be an ethics component.”